THE SUN HAS DIPPED into the horizon. Evening slips in. The storm has subsided but wayward branches of trees rustle wildly with every burst of wind. We walk through the bylanes of Mehrauli. The stench of poultry mixes with the scent of muskmelon and genda phool. The effect is nauseating.
We walk past a row of open-air shops selling gaudy clothing and spices until we finally stumble upon the ruins of the once-opulent Jahaz Mahal, a palace built in 15th-century Delhi. We’re on the lookout for a Buraq, a mythical winged-horse—the creature on whose back the Prophet Mohammed is said to have ridden to heaven. We were told it would be floating on the waters of the Hauz-i-Shamsi, the reservoir adjacent to the Mahal.
About 800 years ago, Sultan Shams-ud-din Iltutmish had a dream in which the Prophet appeared on a winged-horse. The Buraq struck the earth with its hooves and water began to gush out. The Prophet then instructed the Sultan to dig a reservoir at that exact spot. The next morning, the Sultan found the hoof print he had seen in his dream etched into the earth. In 1229, the digging work commenced and the reservoir came to be called the Hauz-i-Shamsi. It single-handedly solved the water problem that had persisted in that region for years.